Traditional Cretan hard bread calls paximathia

In Crete, bread is called “paximathia” and is known almost from the time of king Minos.

It is very popular for many centuries, due to its long shelf life, resistance to mold and ease of digestion and have become a popular product not only throughout Greece, but also in different parts of the world.

The way of life formed for centuries has made namely crackers an integral part of the Cretan nutrition system and not the soft bread. It’s incredibly practical: properly prepared, they can be stored for months without losing their nutritional value. Cretan rusks are a separate gastronomic category. In any supermarket of the island you will find neat packages with breadcrumbs – dozens of different kinds, although many housewives still prefer to bake and dry them on their own.

Paximathia can be made from various grains, including wheat, rye, barley, corn, carob tree or even from chickpea flour. They can be made from a combination of grains. Nothing should be lost in the kitchen.

Traditional hard and dark paximathias consist of barley growing everywhere in Crete. The health benefits of this rough bread play indeed a big role in the legendary longevity of the Cretans.

A study of the publication “Seven Countries” was the first to find a link between the diet, lifestyle and risk of a heart attack, discovering that in Crete the diet consists of 40% of healthy fats.

Before use, the rusks need to be moistened with a little water. The most famous dish with breadcrumbs is the Cretan salad “dakos”, which is prepared by placing a rusk on the bottom of the plate and spreading on it crushed tomatoes, crumbly hard white cheese, herbs and, of course, seasoning it with olive oil.

When acquainting with Greek cuisine, one should keep in mind that the name “paximathia” is also used to refer to sweet pastry prepared with the addition of various flavors such as cinnamon, anise, orange or lemon zest, and even ouzo. In many Greek houses, such biscuits are often served to coffee.

Try to cook these delicious and useful rusks at home.

Traditional barley rusks or Paximathia

It will be required (for 16-20 pieces):

  • 150 grams of plain wheat flour and a little more for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. of dry yeast
  • 250-350 ml of warm water
  • 360 grams of barley flour
  • 1.5 tsp. of shallow sea salt
  • 2 tbsp. of honey
  • 60 ml of olive oil and a little more to grease the baking sheet

How to cook:

  • In a bowl, mix wheat flour with yeast adding about 170 ml of water: the last one needs to be added so much, to get a liquid, but rather thick dough (like to cook pancakes). Cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size (after half an hour).
  • In another large bowl we sift together the barley flour and salt, making in the center a well.
  • Separately mix honey with a little warm water and pour it into this well, then add olive oil, and your yeast mixture.
  • Mix all the ingredients until smooth, adding the remaining warm water as needed. You should get soft, sticky dough.
  • We spread it on the table and knead until it ceases to stick, and turns into a smooth and elastic.
  • We form a ball from the dough, place it back in a bowl, cover with a food film and leave it in a warm place for two hours (or until the dough doubles in volume).
  • Grease the pan with olive oil.
  • When the dough is good enough, we spread it out of the bowl on the flour-poured working surface and knead for 6-7 minutes.
  • Dividing the dough into 8-10 parts we form from each a curl: for this purpose we roll a tourniquet about 25 cm long and join its ends overlapping. In principle, it is not necessary that it immediately look like a flat cake: the elements of the curl may not be very tightly attached to each other – they will still “stick together” when the dough is rising.
  • Spread your curls on the baking sheet at a certain distance from each other. Cover with a towel and leave to rise for about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 ° C.
  • When your curls grow strongly in volume, we cut each horizontally on the outside approximately at the middle of the height with a sharp knife or razor, so that after baking they can be easily divided into halves.
  • Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
  • We get curls out of the oven and cool them, and cut after it into halves along the lines.
  • We set the lowest possible temperature in the oven and put these halves there for about 2-3 hours, until complete drying. In this case, they should dry up, and not fry: that is, their color should not change.
  • We cool them and hermetically seal.

Bon Appetit!

Based on editorial materials of

June, 2018